Open Letter to Washington DC: What Bitcoin Can Teach You About the State Department’s Missing Six Billion Dollars
Dear Washington DC,
It has recently come to my attention that you’ve misplaced another SIX BILLION DOLLARS. This time it was the State Department. Where did it go? The Washington Times reports the Inspector General’s audit uncovering the details that look like gross mismanagement or corruption. Although uncovering mismanagement and fraud is the department’s job it can also be politically dangerous. Angry Democrats turned on this same Inspector General following their report about possible use of the IRS as an intimidation tool to benefit the Obama election.
Washington, we’ve seen this before. For a quick recap; in 2005 you lost track of NINE BILLION DOLLARS in Iraq. In 2012 you were caught and fined another 3.4 BILLION in settlement for “lost” trust funds for American Indian Trusts. This pattern of Federal Government incompetence or fraud seems to repeat ad infinitum from web search engines that never forget.
The problem with having one government department watching over another department, has proven that eventually either a partnership or adversary relationship often develops. If potentially unpopular data emerges that would embarrass the current administration of the day, we know it can be buried by somebody with the right connections before the public catches wind, somebody changes a rule, or fires the right person at the right time and it is the American people who suffer. To illustrate, we don’t have to go far.
The Inspector General’s assessment from August 2013 issued a warning about possible upcoming Obamacare privacy problems. They predicted then that privacy safeguards weren’t being implemented adequately in the rush to get the program rolled out in time. It only took a month for this concern to prove a reality. Because of the highly charged political ramifications and embarrassment, rather than fix the problem … two months later you fixed it by “Cheating”. You changed the rules so privacy breaches no longer needed to be reported. Only a month after that, Obamacare health care exchanges were called a hacker’s dream. Is it any wonder why there is no rush of people signing up?
You see Washington, that’s where we’ve got a problem.There’s got to be a better way. Your strategy of hiding and obscuring fraud and then enacting a strategy to intimidate is the modern day equivalent of “kill the messenger”. It only proves to us that we can’t trust you to police yourself. But bitcoin has it covered…
We have an app for that.
Six billion dollars is pretty hard to misplace. It’s currently more than the entire market cap of bitcoin. Yet, in the world of bitcoin and the block-chain ledger, we can account for every penny’s worth of bitcoin – as it is all transparently recorded in the block-chain. We might not know who exactly owns it, but we can see it. This ability to issue commonly known public key addresses assigned to designated departmental accounts would allow you to follow the money. As you already have the NSA helping you listen to every phone call, and can probably help me find my missing Milli Vanilli mp3 songs I “legally” copied to my hard drive – one might wonder why you can’t find a pile of money big enough to fill a six car garage of $100 dollar bills.
I understand your need privacy for the State Department funds. But did you also know you can use the block-chain ledger to keep private accounts secret as well? The block-chain technology is perfect for both sides. For your auditing team, they will need to know the private keys to those private ledger accounts so they can verify the money ended up where it was supposed to. The reports indicate you can’t even find the contracts for the missing funds. Those too can be stored in the block-chain. The public would learn to trust triple entry book accounting much more than a department of people who simply can’t be immune to intimidation or threats for reporting embarrassing troubles. The reported data of the Office of Inspector General can be easily followed by others. This removes them from the equation as the facts become self-evident and will stand on their own.
There is a long list of countries that have defaulted on international debt obligations loaned from other countries. How does a creditor trust that money they lent to a government will be used properly in a way that will allow it to sustain itself? When Greece was bailed out several times, how many government officials and auditors were fooled into believing Greece’s own self-reported accounting? They found, to their horror, the debt hole they dug themselves was far deeper and much worse than they reported. The Greek banking implosion threatened to take the entire Eurozone with it and involved fraud on a massive scale.
With the invention of Bitcoin’s block-chain, is it possible that it’s just a matter of time before the creditors come to understand the immense benefits of the ledger? The transparency opportunity it provides might be the game-changer. International lenders might find that putting trust in the trustless transaction system was the key to verifying loans are used as they were intended. The mechanisms that allow transparency will finally make these countries accountable to the lenders and their own people.
Washington, I’m sure you agree that these countries should be held accountable. Perhaps you agree that this system might be more effective than our current strategy of just throwing money at the problem. While their citizens remain in poverty, their ruling elite suddenly drive new Lexus and Mercedes. Imagine for a moment the good that could come to their citizens to have the information they need hold their governments responsible. Think of what citizens of Venezuela could do to expose the lies and brutality that seems to be tearing itself apart with half of the country still believing the government leaders who continue to point fingers in every direction but themselves.
Vice knows she’s ugly, so puts on her mask*. Corruption requires darkness and secrecy to continue its cancerous nature. If we can agree it is reasonable to hold foreign countries accountable through enlightened transparency, can we take our own medicine?
Bitcoin technology can afford your constituents the ability to “follow the money” as well. Is it reasonable that we would also hold you accountable for the funds you taxed from us? Perhaps one day we might consider adding this new ability as a requirement to the current Freedom of Information Act. I suspect we’ll see resistance from those with the most to lose. But active resistance to this movement might illuminate who is benefiting the most by secrecy, and by extension, the most likely to abuse that power. Those who protest the loudest should be scrutinized first and most thoroughly. To paraphrase Shakespeare: those officials doth protest too much.
Consider for a moment what you can save in budgets. We wouldn’t need nearly as many auditors, accountants, clerks, and the overhead in HR, risk management, project managers, quality control departments, building maintenance and security that go with them. With programmable money and a few clicks, you can see exactly where it goes if you are consistent and insist on compliance and transparency at every level. By using public wallets created for each account and each department, the trustless system could work in the same ways. It could offer better protection by using third party signatures to verify authorization to move the money when appropriate. Putting money into trusts for social security would allow citizens to watch their own retirement accounts and validate they aren’t raided for other projects. Would this require you to exercise more discipline? Yes. Would this happen overnight? No. It might take generations to get the house in order. We didn’t get into 18 trillion dollars of debt overnight; is there a better plan?
Washington, how many people are employed at various government offices that are assigned to audit, track, account, disperse, authorize, supervise, collect, budget, and grant authorization to spend money? Do we really need to be paying for all this redundancy? Do you think these unfortunate workers stood up in elementary school and proudly declared to the classroom that they wanted to grow up and babysit numbers through accounting ledgers all day? Do you think they now sit at their desks under fluorescent artificial lights staring at numbers and praying silently to just…make… it …until… Friday?
Then the downtrodden then go back in on Monday and repeat…year after year. Do you think this work is fulfilling to them? They painfully endure office politics, employee reviews, cost of living increases, and unclean break rooms. They are silently embarrassed to admit they are encouraged to spend every last drop of their budget each year because if they don’t, their reward for efficiency will be an even smaller budget for the next. The funds in transparent block-chain accounts might provide opportunities to liberate them from their shackles, cleverly disguised as office chairs.
Imagine for a moment a world where we can train them to be scientists, musicians or artists. Classrooms of the next generation of students can be guided to study science, math, art, history, medicine, and education. Those are the productive GDP increasing jobs that inspire a person to feel their work is worth-while and fulfilling. There will likely be many who would gladly take up an offer to be retrained into new important and interesting fields of study. Imagine hundreds of billions saved through consolidation and transparency, money suddenly freed from the bondage of obsolete departments could be diverted into new futuristic fields of study.
Imagine ways we can repair our planet and put new savings into paying off our national debt, funding NASA again and once again leading the world in science. We might cure diseases or build wondrous monuments to the world. With funding for a new army of educators, they could prepare our children for a dignified future off the streets and out of jail. Our world needs more artists because the imagination of artists acts as the pathway of light that science then follows. The technology stored in the block-chain has the potential to unlock the potential in people currently wasting time looking at numbers change columns to make all these possibilities come true. Imagine the possibilities.
But that is then, and we must return to now. Let the current embarrassment of the State Department’s six billion dollar oversight be the catalyst for change.*Poor Richard’s AlmanacSpecial thanks to James D'Angelo for additional insight in this subject. Please visit his "Bitcoin Blackboard 101 Series" on YouTube for further information.